Celebrating Israel’s Century-Long Special Relationship with Australia

Oct. 31 2017

Today is the centenary of the battle of Beersheba, in which the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, serving under Britain’s General Edmund Allenby, took the city from Ottoman forces. Isi Leibler describes the battle, which he sees as the beginning of the consistently warm relations between Canberra and Jerusalem:

The battle of Beersheba . . . represented Australia’s first outstanding achievement as a fighting force, predating its [famed] Western-front victories of 1918. With the disaster at Gallipoli [two years earlier], where over 8,000 Australians needlessly lost their lives, many initially predicted that this attempt represented yet another example of military incompetence and cynical willingness to sacrifice soldiers. Beersheba was heavily fortified, and the battle was a last-ditch effort to defeat the Ottoman empire in the region.

Late on the afternoon of October 31, following an order by their commander, Sir Harry Chauvel, 800 Australian light horsemen galloped over two kilometers at top speed, directly into machine-gun fire, before dismounting and engaging in hand-to-hand combat. They overcame the Turkish defenders in less than an hour. Thirty Australian horsemen were killed and 36 wounded. Over 500 Turks were killed and 1,500 surrendered. It was a turning point in Allenby’s struggle to defeat the Ottomans in Palestine. . . .

Australia has constantly maintained a positive bipartisan relationship with Israel. . . . The Jewish community can claim much of the credit for this. Australian community leaders have not hesitated to confront their government on the rare occasions they considered it was applying double standards against Israel. The all-encompassing pro-Israel orientation of the Jewish community is undoubtedly a major factor contributing to the pro-Israel orientation of the mainstream political parties.

However, dark clouds are emanating from sectors of the Australian Labor party, whose former foreign minister Bob Carr has become a spokesman for extremist Arab causes. . . .

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More about: Australia, Edmund Allenby, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, World War I

Iran’s Defeat May Not Be Immediate, but Effective Containment Is at Hand

Aug. 20 2018

In the 1980s, the U.S. pursued a policy of economic, military, and political pressure on the Soviet Union that led to—or at least hastened—its collapse while avoiding a head-on military confrontation. Some see reasons to hope that a similar strategy might bring about the collapse of the Islamic Republic. Frederick Kagan, however, argues against excessive optimism. Carefully comparing the current situation of Iran to that of the Gorbachev-era USSR, he suggests instead that victory over Tehran can be effectively achieved even if the regime persists, at least for the time being:

What must [an Iran] strategy accomplish in order to advance American national security and vital national interests? Regime change was the only outcome during the cold war that could accomplish those goals, given the conventional and nuclear military power of the Soviet Union. Iran is much weaker by every measure and much more vulnerable to isolation than the Soviets were. . . . Isolating Iran from external resources and forcing the regime to concentrate on controlling its own population would be major accomplishments that would transform the Middle East. . . .

It is vital to note that the strategy toward the Soviet Union included securing Western Europe against the Soviet threat and foreclosing Soviet efforts to pare America’s allies, especially West Germany, away from it while simultaneously supporting (in an appropriately limited fashion) the Solidarity uprising in Poland and the anti-Soviet insurgency in Afghanistan. It is not meaningful to speak of a victory strategy against Iran that does not include contesting Iranian control and influence in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq while strengthening and hardening the Arab frontline states (including Oman and Qatar) against Iranian influence.

Syria is Iran’s Afghanistan—it is the theater in which Iranian forces are most vulnerable, where Iranian popular support for the war is wearing thin, and where the U.S. can compel [Iran] to expend its limited resources on a defensive battle. Iraq is Iran’s Poland—the area Iran has come to dominate, but with limitations, and a country Iran’s leaders believe they cannot afford to lose. The U.S. is infinitely better positioned to contest Iran’s control over Iraq than it ever was in Poland (and similarly better positioned in Syria than it was in Afghanistan).

A long-term approach would focus on building a consensus among America’s allies about the need to implement a victory strategy. It would deter the Russians and Chinese from stepping in to keep Iran alive. It would disrupt the supply chain of strategic materials Iran needs to advance its nuclear and conventional military capabilities. And it would force Iran to fight hard for its positions in Iraq and Syria while simultaneously pressing the Iranian economy in every possible way. Such a strategy would almost certainly force the Islamic Republic back in on itself, halt and reverse its movement toward regional hegemony, exacerbate schisms within the Iranian leadership and between the regime and the people, and possibly, over time, and in a uniquely Iranian way, lead to a change in the nature of the regime.

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More about: Cold War, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Soviet Union, U.S. Foreign policy